Instrumental Futures? Action research into MF and instrumental tuition

29th February 2016

Musical Futures Australia Champion Teacher Michael Newton is looking at how Musical Futures approaches can be integrated into instrumental lessons at his school. Read more in this guest blog, and download his research outline here- Instrumental Futures Research Outline.vMF

I’m in the (un)enviable position of setting up a new Music Department from scratch. Daunting task, but heaps of fun, and the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork for exactly how you want things to run without having to change cultures or ingrained ways of working.

Which got me thinking when we were preparing to launch our Instrumental…What do we want it to look like? It would be easy to line up some tutors and timetable the students and leave it at that. But wouldn’t it be better to integrate the instrumental and classroom programs somehow? If that sounds like the holy grail of music education it’s because it probably is, and it’s been pursued with varying degrees of success for some time. But, the fact is a good classroom program is even better with a strong instrumental program, and visa versa.

What’s Musical Futures got to do with all this? I’ve been using Musical Futures in the classroom since around 2007 when I first came across it (as part of some research I was doing into why GCSE students choose, or just as importantly, don’t choose to do music). When I arrived at my new school last year I was very upfront about my intentions to implement Musical Futures in the classroom, and I’m fortunate to have a very supportive Principal. So when it came to the Instrumental Program it occurred to me that informal and non-formal learning could be the link that brings the two programs together, rather than orbiting around each other. I hit the ‘net looking for ideas and information and research… and found very little (that was freely accessible anyway). I gleaned some ideas from Professor Lucy Green’s research, and a couple of other sources, and put together a little handbook for our incoming tutors (who we employed partly based on their openness to trying new ideas). I hope they’re trying some of it, but as I’m in the classroom more often than not it’s hard to tell!

So 6 months down the track I decided maybe we should formalise this a little more (can you do that to non-formal/informal teaching and learning?) and run a little case study on some selected strategies in instrumental teaching. That could very quickly get out of control trying to measure attainment, motivation, practice, engagement, the list goes on. On further thought it seemed the best idea would be to look solely at student engagement, on the basis that an engaged student will be a motivated student, and a motivated student will be an achieving student.

Practicalities? A short online survey for students and tutors (how good is Survey Monkey?) prior to the start to set a baseline, followed by implementation of the strategies for one (Australian) term or (UK) half-term, then another online survey at the end to allow some comparison to where we started. I’m hoping we get some good results and can package this up as a case study other people can draw on. Are you doing something similar? Are you Interested? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Read more about Michael’s ‘Instrumental Futures’ approach here: Informal & Non-Formal Instrumental Teachingv2

MLR Tour -1-62

Michael Newton teaches at St George’s Anglican Grammar School, Perth, Western Australia.

Excellent workshops ‑ extremely accessible for all abilities and levels."

Claire Armour, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra